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Here you will find information, musings, and pictures about life, the natural world and writing.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Have to have a habitat

Most of my energies have gone lately to promoting Night Kill, the first in the Iris Oakley "zoo-dunnit" series. I took a break and read The World without Us by Alan Weisman, a fascinating account of what might happen to plant Earth if we humans suddenly vanished. He works through what would soon return to natural conditions (and why that might not be what you expect, given invasive species and global warming) and what just won't. Oil refineries and nuclear power plants aren't going to be pretty for a long, long time. He describes human effects on air, water, and land in dismaying detail.

I also attended a ceremony today in Vancouver, Washington, opening one of the sites of the Confluence Project (http://www.confluenceproject.org/), public art along the Lewis & Clark trail. Sam Green, poet laureate of the state of Washington, read a poem titled What We Carry On The Trail that ends:

Like Lewis, like Clark, we have set our feet
on a bridge into the future, intending to arrive
with everything we've come to love--including
the brown pelican, Kincaid's lupine,
Fender's blue butterfly. We teach our children
each step is a name that matters.

We have traveled a long, long way & are traveling
still. We carry the cost of failure, the lengthening list
of what is gone already, of all that might be lost, knowing
what we have to do, believing that we will.

(quoted with permission http://www.arts.wa.gov/projects/poet-laureate.shtml)

Which all leads me to this question: don't we need a lot fewer of us, so that other lives can survive? Logic leads me toward an international one-child per woman strategy, despite the multitude of ugly issues around that. Not Chinese-style coercion, not just birth control for "those people", instead some undefined, improbable miracle of realization around the world that we will all live better with fewer of us. Mind you, I crave grandchildren and bore two children myself. I am aware of how very hard this is. What alternatives are there? Hint: it's not recycling plastic bags.

Let me know your thoughts.

1 comment:

mystery fan said...

You are right on. Progressive environmental and social actions are undercut or nullified by our expanding global population.

Decades ago, I read a book about population growth which said that the keys to reducing the number of children born are
1) giving people confidence that their children will survive, so they don't need to birth eight to end up with two. This means public health initiatives such as clean water, disease control, pre- and post-natal care, as well as social initiatives like food security.
2) raising the status, power and education of women.
3) providing some basic old-age support--in many poor nations your old-age pension is your children, so you want to have a bunch.

When these factors are improved, then parents feel secure limiting their number of children, and women are able to access contraception without fear of social or spousal punishment.

All my subsequent observation has borne this out. Women who are uneducated, bored, or have no prospects, or are dominated by father or husband, will often see child-bearing as one of the few things they can do. And many times, under such circumstances, they don't have a lot of choice about getting pregnant or not.

Fundamental changes like this are often resisted, understandably, but there are some less threatening ways to approach people. Micro-loans to women are one way. They get more power over their lives and can invest in the health and education of their kids. And I've long thought that in this country some public & low-cost housing should be for women and children only, so that women who want to get away from abusive men can do so.

It's a win-win: happier healthier people and more lupines, butterflies, and rhinos. More clean air and water.

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